In The Hall of the Waffle King

"When the girl walks in from the rain and chill of a Madison Street on a Saturday afternoon, she doesn't even look at the small menu on the back wall at Arosa Café in First Hill. Instead, she has eyes only for the small bakery case with the wire cooling racks.

'Hi, Hans!' she calls out to the quick old man on the other side of the counter. Hans Riechsteiner looks up briefly, then smiles broadly.

'How many today?' he asks, his delicate Swiss accent adding a little fringe to every word.

There are two waffles sitting on the cooling rack--two perfect, square(ish), golden-brown and speckled gaufres Liègoises--but this girl knows the trick.

'Four,' she says, and Hans nods. This means he's going to have to make fresh waffles, serve them right out of the iron, hot and sticky and fragrant. He looks at me standing there, watching him work, getting in the way of the abbreviated flow of custom from the door to the counter and out again.

'Sit,' he says. 'It will be five minutes. Maybe more. I will make yours fresh as well.'"

From this week's review of Arosa Cafe and Sweet Iron Waffles

Two restaurants this week--each of them doing just one thing, both of them actually doing the same thing.

Sweet Iron Waffles and Arosa Cafe both specialize in Liege-style Belgian waffles--beautiful, sugar-sweet and delicate waffles that, when done well, are one of the most delicious things on earth and, when done poorly, can be the worst kind of disappointment ever.

One modern, one traditional. One new, one old. Come tomorrow, you can see how the two places stack up against each other and how they fare all on their own. And in the meantime, if you want to get a jump on the waffle junkies, bear this in mind: both shops open early tomorrow morning. So if you're up with the sun and looking for an excuse to eat cake for breakfast, you might want to check the places out.

Because something tells me that at least one of them is going to be having a very busy afternoon.

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